By Cindy Regnier
If you were to plan a party back in the 19th-century, how might you have entertained your guests? One of the most popular activities for social events during that era was a taffy pull. Sounds fun, huh? Just how does one pull taffy? First you get your hands all gooey with butter, then you pull on a hunk of molasses candy, back and forth, over and over. Taffy pulls were common, especially for young people, often held at churches or colleges. Men and women alike pulled on the sticky sweet candy made from boiled molasses, or sometimes sugar for the more well-to-do. All one really needed for a successful candy pull was a warm kitchen, copper pans and lots of aprons. Oh yes, and don’t forget the butter. No butter and you might have candy stuck to your hands for days to come.
These sweet, often sticky parties gained much of their popularity during the 1840s, although they were called Candy Pulls at that time. The term Taffy Pull was coined about thirty-some years later when the candy originally named toffee in Great Britain began to be synonymous with the word taffy in American cookbooks of that time frame. Most recipes used a combination of molasses or sugar and water, along with butter for greasing the taffy pans or in the hands of those who pulled the taffy. The hot candy was put into greased pans to partially cool, then was pulled to add air to the mixture until it became a light yellow color. When ready it was shaped into sticks, ropes, or braids, and then cut, usually with scissors, to make drop-like shapes.
Molasses and sorghum were good substitutes for sugar, which was often scarce, especially during the Civil War. Some recipes even recommended securing a hook to the wall to facilitate the pulling process. However, most thought it more fun to have a pulling partner. Many a courtship was said to begin over a chunk of warm candy.
Candy pulls were great fun and often spontaneous, an event enjoyed by all ages, and even among the wealthy. On New York’s Fifth Avenue, taffy pulls became a prominent social event during the 1870s. Even while the attendees were dressed very fashionably, they still enjoyed the evening’s entertainment of the sticky taffy pull.
The term “salt water taffy” was likely coined in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The most popular explanation of the name is that of a candy-store owner, David Bradley, whose shop was flooded during a major storm in 1883. His entire stock of taffy was soaked with salty Atlantic Ocean water. Shortly afterward, a young girl came into his shop and asked if he had any taffy for sale. Mr. Bradley jokingly offered her some “salt water taffy.” After sampling a piece, the girl purchased the candy and proudly walked down to the beach to show her friends. Bradley’s mother was in the back of the store and overheard the whole conversation. She loved the name “saltwater taffy”, and that’s what it was called from then on.
In the Laura Ingallls Wilder book, Farmer Boy,
Almanzo and his siblings make candy and Almanzo's pig Lucy gets into a sticky situation. Laura writes, "In the kitchen Eliza Jane and Royal were arguing about candy. Royal wanted some, but Eliza Jane said that candy-pulls were only for winter evenings. Royal said he didn't see why candy wouldn't be just as good in the summer." In the Little House Cookbook, Barbara M. Walker explains that winter temperature and humidity were what made candy-making possible in the winter and not in the summer. If you have a spare winter evening, try this recipe.
Make sure you have a pulling crew nearby and don't feed any candy to the pig!
Rand Stafford isn't looking for true love. He'd ridden that trail until his fiancée left him with a shattered heart. What he needs now is a wife to help him care for his orphan nieces. Desperate, he sends an advertisement to a Baltimore newspaper and hopes for the best.
Fleeing her former employer who would use her to further his unlawful acts, a newspaper advertisement reads like the perfect refuge to Carly Blair. The idea of escaping the city, the intrigue, and the danger to hide herself on a cattle ranch in Kansas is her best shot for freedom.
But its sanctuary comes with a price—a husband. While marrying a man she doesn't know or love means sacrificing her dreams, it's better than being caught by the law.
Or is it?